Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Gunks Routes: Obstacle Delusion (5.9) & Teeny Face (5.10a) ...but still no Insuhlation (5.9)

(Photo:  Maryana tackling the crux move at the first set of overhangs on Obstacle Delusion (5.9))

I found myself at the Obstacle Delusion/Insuhlation buttress again with Maryana the other week.  Maryana wanted to lead Obstacle Delusion (5.9).  I'd never been on it but she'd done it once before, taking a hang at the first hard roof, then getting lost and bailing off to the right. 

I was excited to try it out, and of course being in this location made me think yet again about heading back up Insuhlation, the climb on which I broke my ankle in 2009.  As it happened, while we were getting ready to start Obstacle Delusion another party was finishing up the short first pitch of Alpine Diversions (5.8).  This other party was planning to do pitch two of Insuhlation, so from my belay stance on the ground I hoped to watch Maryana and at the same time get another look at Insuhlation.

(Photo:  She may not know it, but having grabbed the jug, this climber has done the tricky starting crux of Alpine Diversions (5.8).)

Maryana decided to do Obstacle Delusion as a single pitch.  She ran right up the traditional 5.4 first pitch, placing almost no pro.  Immediately she was below the big first roof.  This was where she'd previously struggled, and unfortunately she struggled again and had to take a hang.  I could see the hold she was going for-- it looked like a pretty big move.  After she rested she got through it.

(Photo:  Maryana in the steep series of overhangs that make up the second crux of Obstacle Delusion (5.9).)

The second crux of Obstacle Delusion seems to involve two different skills:  (1) endurance and (2) route-finding.  Maryana told me that her first time on the route, she'd wandered too far to the right and found herself lost in the 5.10 territory of the variation climb Teeny Face, then moved further right to Insuhlation, and finally bailed to the finishing moves above the roof on Alpine Diversions.  This time, from the ground, we'd looked carefully at the guidebook and she found what I believe is the correct 5.9 route.  In the photo above she is just below and to the right of the shallow orange right-facing corner mentioned in Dick's book.

You won't get lost, I think, if you stay in the numerous overlapping overhangs.  If you find yourself venturing to the right into the flatter, lighter orange-colored face, you are leaving Obstacle Delusion.

Maryana successfully negotiated the second crux through the series of overhangs, and after she put me on belay, I started up the route just as the leader in the other party was reaching the crux of Insuhlation. 

(Photo:  Climber following pitch two of Insuhlation (5.9); it is the same woman who is pictured above leading pitch one of Alpine Diversions.  I regret that I have forgotten her name!)

This climber on Insuhlation seemed like a very competent fellow, but he was struggling with the final roof problem.  And his pro was several feet below the roof. 

I stopped climbing for a moment and watched him.  I imagined his pro was exactly where mine was when I fell there two years ago.  But I had pulled above the roof without finding another placement.  He, more sensibly, was trying to place another piece before going any further.  He worked a nut in at the roof, but I heard him say it was junk.  He didn't clip it.  Instead he warned his partner that he was coming off and let go.

As I watched him fall, swinging down and into the wall, I thought he'd been so much smarter than I had been at that same location, and yet still this was a fall that could easily tweak an ankle.  (Luckily he was fine.)  I decided once again at that moment not to get back on Insuhlation.

But then as I negotiated the many overhangs of Obstacle Delusion-- finding them straightforward and well-protected, but pumpy and sustained (nice lead, Maryana!)-- I arrived at the top to to find the leader on Insuhlation had made it to the top as well, finding other pro and finishing the route.  Once he went back up, he said, he found both the pro and the climbing reasonable. 

The mystery gets deeper again. 

(Photo:  Another climber leading Obstacle Delusion; shot with my phone from the High Exposure ledge.)

After we finished Obstacle Delusion Maryana and I dropped a toprope over Teeny Face (5.10a) and gave it a whirl.  It too is steep and unmysterious.  It is definitely a step up in difficulty from Obstacle Delusion, and it does not have the same obvious protection opportunities.  We both sent it on the first try with the comfort of the toprope, but I don't know if either of us will be leading that one any time soon.  It features very good climbing, and it is totally worth the few minutes' effort to drop the rope over it if you find yourself at the rap tree and no one is coming up the route. 

I'd love to go back to lead Obstacle Delusion. The line is a little indistinct, but the climbing is classic Gunks. Steep reaches between good holds, with great horizontals for pro wherever you need it. And Insuhlation, well.... I'm still scratching my head about it.

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